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So I saw Benedict Cumberbatch Is Mad About Something
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I saw Star Trek Into Darkness Sunday afternoon but haven't said anything about it because... I just really had no urge to talk about it at all. This perplexes me. I've seen a few episodes of the original series and Next Generation, so I have a decent background on it without being married to canon. I loved the first new movie. I like J.J. Abrams movies generally, lens flares and all. I felt a reasonable amount of enjoyment while I was watching this one. All I could say when I walked out was, "That was... a whole lotta movie." I really cannot understand why.

Just keeping an eye on tweets and headlines over the last couple of weeks, I saw that reviews were pretty strongly mixed; people either came out saying it was The Best Summer Blockbuster Ever or shaking their fists at it. I knew that Cumberbatch's character was actually Khan, not just from viewer confirmation, but because Abrams denied that "John Harrison" was Khan so relentlessly that he obviously was, in fact, Khan. If he really were not Khan, there would be no reason not to let people go on and think that he was--maybe even play with that expectation. (The most cynical--and likely?--explanation I heard was that Abrams didn't want to deal with months of people complaining that they had cast Khan Noonien Singh as the whitest dude ever.) Basically, they did the exact opposite of what Shane Black did with the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, and it worked the opposite of well. But it didn't actually bother me--again, I was expecting it. I also heard a lot of complaints about plot holes and diminishing stakes, but... *shrug*? Look, I think my actual favorite movie last year was Prometheus. Not the best movie, but my favorite. Clearly I have no problem with movies that are utterly wackadoo nonsensical. You throw in great actors and amazing sets and hilariously awesome/awesomely hilarious plot developments, and you have my sword. So I have no idea why this movie left me cold.


1) I actually didn't have as many issues with it as some of the angrier reviewers/fans did; I'm not sure how Kirk keeps failing upwards, as someone put it, but I felt like his story arc worked well enough. The cast is uniformly fantastic, although I would have liked a bit more John Cho; Zachary Quinto is just the best. (Speaking of whom... Benedict Cumberbatch just really does nothing for me, although I admit that he has a nice deep voice, and I enjoy a Badass Longcoat generally. I do like to refer to him as Cummerbund Bandersnatch, but in fairness, if I had a name that could be turned into "Bandersnatch," I would call myself that all the time. No lie, I would probably have my middle name legally changed to "Frumious.")

2) I was going to complain that all the terrorism was a bit more grimdark than the lighter, more hopeful worldview I associate with Star Trek, but... does what it says on the tin. Which is labeled Into Darkness.

3) I don't know why I felt the movie was too loud and busy, because I love action movies and head-punching and shit blowing up good. If you said, "You can see an action movie or a romantic comedy," I would pick the action movie, and if you said "You can only see a romantic comedy," I would go home. So it's not a genre thing. Maybe it's best epitomized by a Serious Dialogue Scene that's a sustained closeup of Benedict Cumberbatch's face... while the camera shakes for no reason at all. Not because the ship is experiencing any turbulence. Just because, apparently, the Steadicam operator drank all the coffee that day.

4) Of course Carol Marcus is in her undawears. Of course she is.

I think I would find the Starfleet miniskirts super cute if they had tights or pants underneath. I'm sorry, but ladies need knee coverings in space just as much as dudes do. Would Stardudes ever be running through the halls in hot pants? No? What's the difference? They're already running around in distractingly skintight bodysuits. How's it less appropriate if you just chop those off at the thigh? (Spoiler: it would be equally inappropriate.)

5) @marjoriemliu: I knew some dudes scripted Star Trek when the brilliant Uhura chose THE WORST MOMENT EVER to talk about her relationship with Spock. #cringe

I love Zoe Saldana, and she did get to be badass right after that. And I get that they needed to grab the first unoccupied moment they could to explain Spock's Logical Feels. But the way the scene played--even Kirk was like OMG SERIOUSLY UHURA, THIS IS WHAT WE'RE DOING NOW?

6) Sure, let's go mow down a couple dozen Klingons. That seems like a Starfleet thing to do.

7) Dialing up Old Spock was overly convenient, but I'll give you that one. My question is--did I completely miss something? Or did Old Spock actually say something like, "There's one way to defeat him" but we didn't hear what it was, presumably so it could be a surprise? And then... no one ever used One Surprise Way to defeat him? Was it the Vulcan Neck Pinch, which... didn't actually defeat him? I feel like I must have had a brain glitch there or something.

I did enjoy Spock losing his shit and trying to beat Khan into a fine paste, though. Look, the point in these movies isn't that Vulcans have no feelings--it's that they have such strong feelings that they control them with logic. I actually identify highly with this. Sometimes you just have to lose your shit and storm out there all like THE BATCH IS MINE.

8) I keep seeing people complain that Khan had no real motive, but it seemed pretty clear--simplistic, even--to me: he wants his family back. He loves his crew the way Kirk loves his, and I'm pretty sure Kirk would feel the same drive to save the Enterprise's crew if they were captured, though hopefully with a lot less terrorism. (Don't lie, you know he would wreck everyone's shit just to get to Spock.) I mean, in that sense, I felt there was a direct equivalency there that was kind of the through-line of the story, starting with Kirk's insistence at the beginning that he'd never lost a crew member. Which is why it then seemed kind of asking-for-it ridiculous when Spock decided to blow up all his people at him. Wait, you actually saved them in their cryotubes and just meant to fake Khan out with empty torpedoes? Well, you never got around to telling him that. Imagine if you made Kirk think that you'd blown up Spock, Uhura, Bones, Scotty, Sulu, Chekhov, etc. Shit would go down until there was no more down to go.

9) So... you've got 73 people with magical healing blood and you just... put them back in deep freeze?

("DON'T KILL HIM, SPOCK! WE NEED KHAN ALIVE!" "But... we've got like 72 people with magical healing blood back there in the fridge--" "WE NEED HIM BACK FOR SEQUELS.")

Unlike That Incident Last Summer, I don't have a critical hill I'm willing to die on here--nothing I'm willing to argue for 400 comments about. Basically, I'm opening up discussion so people can tell me why they did (or didn't) like the movie, because I am just utterly baffled as to why it's the kind of thing I should have liked, but didn't make much of an impression on me. I might possibly see it again if my mom wants to go, so I am totally open to anything that might make me see it differently a second time.

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This is kind of how I feel. This film had all the ingredients to really wow me but it fell really short. I actually thought it was dull in some places. It didn't give me much of anything, and I can't even summon up the energy to be angry at it (as a Trekkie, mind). It's just meh.

Yeah, it actually did feel kind of dull in places. I don't know why! I felt exactly the way I did while seeing the third Star Wars prequel, oddly. "Too loud, too busy, occasionally boring but I don't understand why." I tend to think it has something to do with the pacing of the story, somehow, not an actual lack of things happening. Like, I felt like we were hurtling pell-mell through ALL THE THINGS HAPPENING with no real sense of rising and falling action. I guess that's how I would describe it in retrospect, anyway--it's not something I consciously try to diagnose while I'm watching. But... like... it felt like it was rushing along in a straight line instead of a more effective, measured sense of pacing. So you get this paradoxically bored sense of "Well, we're still doing all the things because reasons, I guess."

Aaugh! I wanted to like this movie and it was enjoyable enough, but there was just too many things wrong with the writing.

A myriad of little things that point to the writers completely forgetting what they wrote in the first film. E.g.: 1) "Chapel is a nurse now" - she was a nurse in the first film! You called her name and Majel Roddenberry answered off-screen! 2) Chekov: "I can't beam them, they're moving too fast" - WE HAD AN ENTIRE 10 MINUTE SEQUENCE ABOUT HOW YOU ARE THE ONE PERSON WHO CAN BEAM FAST-MOVING TARGETS UP!

And then there was Spock Prime's line about how Khan Prime in Wrath of Khan was defeated "at great personal cost" and of course Kirk's death ("He's only slightly dead. Well, mostly dead now.") is supposed to be that cost in this film, except... it isn't. He didn't die as a cost to defeating Khan, he died as a cost to saving the ship from a mechanical failure when they thought Khan was already dead. Now if he died so they could go chasing after Khan who was speeding towards Earth in a genocidal rage, that would at least make slightly more sense.

In a weird way, this entire conflict would've been more fitting with the set-up of the first movie, wouldn't it? With Kirk refusing to believe in unwinnable Kobayashi Maru scenarios and now having to die to save his ship (like his father, fittingly). Come up with a new plot/conflict, Star Trek Film writing team! GO SAVE THE WHALES OR SOMETHING!

Edited at 2013-05-21 04:26 pm (UTC)

"Chapel is a nurse now" - she was a nurse in the first film! You called her name and Majel Roddenberry answered off-screen!

THIS. I would have been all "okay that makes sense" with it if she'd been off studying to be a doctor like she planned to in TOS. She was already a nurse by 2260 and Roger Korby went missing on Exo III in 2261. They could have had her working with him—ANYTHING BUT "she's studying to be a nurse" SINCE SHE ALREADY WAS ONE IN THE FIRST MOVIE.

*scrubs both hands across her face*

I'm sorry. I was just really excited for this movie because I was so certain that Christine Chapel would be in it somewhere and all we get is this inaccurate throwaway gag.

Given the way Spock sprints for Engineering when Scotty calls him up to vaguely tell him to come watch Kirk die in a glass tube of radiation, I assumed that Spock Prime told him about his own glass tube of radiation death. (Not that I know what that has to do with defeating Khan, but it's the only parallel to the end of Wrath of Khan that I can recall appearing in Into Darkness.)

Ahhhhh, that's true. Although I don't know what that has to do with defeating Khan, either.

(Don't lie, you know he would wreck everyone's shit just to get to Spock.)

Yes, this was basically the plot of Star Trek III.

Star Trek IV richly demonstrated that Kirk fell upwards in the original canon too, although they worked harder at it.

Well. I wondered if I was the only one who thought...No, wait. There are all those people back in the photon torpedoes...

I am one of the first group. I loved the movie and enjoyed the heck out of those two hours I was suspended in disbelief. The ONLY person who bothered me was Bones - because he's too much. I believe the captain made a remark about that, himself!

I don't do movies much. They are expensive and I am not rich. I saw every single ep of TOS and I believe every single ep of TNG, but I also loved Voyager and DS9 so as far as canon goes...it's all confused in my head. I think Chris Pine is WAY more charismatic than Shatner ever was, I do love the cast and got a big kick out of Mr. Scott's antics. And yeah, Zach Quinto and Zoe Saldana. Yeah.

My favorite Star Trek character EVAR was Julian Bashir, the doc on DS 9. Strictly because I thought he was gorgeous.

I think what really made it for me was that *I* got involved, right down to feeling VERY queasy when Khan/Spock were fighting on those platforms. I told Carrie I got really shaky in the knees there -(I'm afraid of heights!)

Maybe you will enjoy it more a second time.

I have just started DS9 in my Big Trek Marathon and every time Doctor Bashir is on screen I just want to squeeze his face and go "OH YOU PRECIOUS BABY".

I fully expect something terrible to happen to him by the end of the first season.

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Yeah, I'm not worried about spoilers in the comments here.

See, I actually like that kind of switching-things-up. It actually think that's where it would have worked better to advertise Khan as the villain, so people would go watch the original movie in advance and expect a certain ending, and then Abrams could play their expectations against them. As it was, there are a lot of people who haven't seen that movie, and as one of those articles I linked says, "have no idea who or what a Khan is." So the reveal and the Old Spock communication fell flat.

I suspect it felt "wrong" to her because it wasn't as well done as the original. If that scene had been equally good or even better, people would cut it a lot more slack.

I know people whose personal headcanon is that Cumberbatch's character isn't actually Khan, but one of his genetically engineered followers who claimed Khan's name for Reasons. I can go with that.

I also want a Best Parts cut that gets rid of everything but Benedict Cumberbatch doing his Menacing British Villain #1 at me, because he does it so well.

Edited at 2013-05-21 04:35 pm (UTC)

As I say in a comment below, my personal headcanon is that Khan is a codename - for Sherlock Holmes. Because Khan is Steven Moffat's Sherlock.

That's why Cumberbatch's performance is the same between the two characters!

So... you've got 73 people with magical healing blood and you just... put them back in deep freeze?

My husband brought this up, but Bones points out on the moon-thingy earlier that they can't just unfreeze torpedo guy without the real codes or else he could die. I'm a lawyer, not a doctor(!) so I don't know if you can put dead blood in a person, but I'm guessing not?

Overall, I really loved this movie because it was fun and just meta enough for a casual and hardcore Star Trek fan to enjoy without leaving people with no familiarity out in the dark. (If I could have kept poor Dr. Marcus in her uniform the whole movie, I would have loved it more, but that was the only moment I'm still annoyed at now.

Edited at 2013-05-21 04:42 pm (UTC)

My husband brought this up, but Bones points out earlier that they can't just unfreeze him without the real codes or else the dude could die. I'm a lawyer, not a doctor(!) so I don't know if you can put dead blood in a person, but I'm guessing not?

Hm, yeah. That was so subtle, though, that I kind of wish they'd had a quick "But we have his crew on the ship!"/"But we don't have the codes!" exchange between Bones and Uhura. But if that's more of a Fridge Logic thing than an actual plot hole, I'll give it to them.

(... why did they have a dead tribble on the ship?)

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You hit quite a few points right on the nose here about why I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have.

While we're at it, this was a... Weird... Remake of Wrath of Khan. And I did not appreciate having a certain scene aped for drama. Yes, it was well-acted and did make me cry, but in the back of my head all I could think was: "This already worked well in 1982."

Then Spock yells it out and I immediately lost control and laughed. What is meant to be a dramatic moment of loss is reduced to a call-back gag that just falls on the side of "Really? You're really going to put that in this movie and expect people to take it seriously?"

I've seen it twice now (I saw it on opening day and again with my parents on Sunday), but it still left me feeling both parts satisfied and unsatisfied.

I will say, after McCoy's line ("I once performed an emergency cesarean on a pregnant Gorn—octuplets—lemme tell you, those little bastards bite.") I wanted to see just how in the hell that story happened. And, like I said before, there wasn't enough Karl Urban. Then again, even movies with Karl playing the main character don't have enough Karl Urban. I think he ruined everything for me when I first saw him on Xena.

There was some really good snappy dialogue in this one, I'll give it that. I especially enjoyed Chris Pine's exasperated noises. And this:

Pike: Are you giving me attitude, Spock?
Spock: I am expressing many attitudes at once—to which are you referring?

That was perfect.

I think the first half of the movie was good and then it started getting weird toward the end. And the tribble thing was such a blatant "this will come up later" that I really kind of hated it. It was shoehorned in there all right.

Something else that bothered me was this: there are only two female leads on the Enterprise? There were more women in the show. Was J.J. just worried that people would think there were too many blonde women? Couldn't he have brought back Gaila from the first one (and explained that she survived the Farragut? When I first saw Alice Eve in the science blues, I thought she was playing Christine Chapel and was so excited because she and Dr. McCoy were my favorite TOS characters. Then I found out she was playing Kirk's future baby mama and thought: "okay. Where's Chris?"

And she's reduced to being one of Kirk's faceless ex-flings.

Not happy right here.

So... Yeah. This movie was a mixed bag with me. I'm still thinking of things I really liked and things I really did not like.

That being said, Zachary Quinto is really good at being Spock. And I still want to see more of these characters played by these actors.

And I still want to see more of these characters played by these actors.

Yessssssss. I want to see more of this but maybe written by other people.

Yes. This.

I DID like it, though, but accept that it is Not A Good Movie. I enjoyed it, but don't feel strongly about it.

I went a second time, b/c I'd already made plans to do so, and the bad stuff was worse, and the good stuff was better.

I'm bothered by the casting thing in terms of it was a part that could've gone to an actor of color, a, but even more so, b, JJ was being a complete and utter asshole, and yes, of course, we all knew he was going to be Khan, because of how hard he denied it. But not as bothered by it as other people.

In the end, I feel sort of like one review I read (can't remember where now) that was basically like - it's a terrible movie, but the acting won me over. The only characters/actors I felt negatively about were the Marcuses, and that's a whole other rant.

Yeah, the Marcuses didn't do much for me, and I'm (sing it with me) not even sure why. I love everyone else, though.

Less cynically, I feel like Abrams cast Cumberbatch--i.e., not an actor of color--so that he could maintain the Totally Not Khan front. Which... like I say upthread, I feel like the movie would have been more suspenseful if he'd admitted it, because we would have been waiting for a particular set of events which he then switched up. If you know it's Khan (and you have time to find out who that is, if you're a newbie), you get to sit there anxiously expecting some shit to go down, but then you're also shocked when different shit goes down. Instead, Abrams bent over backwards to hide something that was less effective when hidden.

I loved the movie.

The whole "OMG THEY WHITEWASHED KHAN" argument kinda bothers me. Khan is a Middle Eastern name. The original Khan was played by a Mexican, not someone Middle Eastern. And just as there are people screaming that Khan is now white, if a POC had played Khan, there would be people screaming "OMG THEY MADE THE TERRORIST A BROWN SKINNED GUY!" You can't win for trying. To me, it was all about who played the role the best, and I don't think ANYONE could top Cumberbatch in that role. I didn't pay attention to the fact that he was a White British Dude playing a dude with a Middle Eastern sounding name. Because he WAS. THAT. GOOD.

There probably was a lot wrong with the movie, but this cast is just so fantastic - great acting, great chemistry, etc., that it overrides any of the negatives for me. But, I know that doesn't work for everyone. I hope you enjoy it more on a 2nd viewing. I can't wait to see it again.

Although the one thing that I could have done without was the gratuitous Marcus In Her Underwear shot. It served no purpose other than eye candy for those that like to see women in their knickers.

Ok, and upon reflection, I would have loved if the movie had ended as the original ST2: WoK did. Let the audience think Kirk is really dead-dead and save everything that happened after that be in the next movie. I was ok with them wrapping it all up in this one, but I think Kirk's death would have resonated more if he had been dead for more than 5 minutes...

I think Kirk's death would have resonated more if he had been dead for more than 5 minutes...

I agree, but at the same time I think they'd riffed off one too many of the old emotional moments to be able to pull it off to the same effect. Last time round no one was expecting that Spock would die and then stay dead at the end of the film.

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I liked it, but I love The Wrath of Khan, and... I've already seen it. (Totally agree with the person who above who laughed when the shout-outs/reversals got ridiculous - me too). Also, we have the same problem as one of my least favourite Star Trek Voyager episodes, 'Mortal Coil,' of suddenly this magic thing that brings people back from the dead, so why don't we use it all the time? (At least Star Trek III made sure to take care of that problem). And the blood thing was a bit too vampire-y for Star Trek, I think.

Basically, I really enjoyed the early parts, which were new, but would rather watch my DVD of The Wrath of Khan than the later parts. And while calling up Old Spock may be logical in that situation, it was kind of... weird. On several levels. Stand on your own two feet for heavens sakes!

It was weird to me because I was like, good thing Old Spock just happened to be around to pick up the phone at that precise moment!

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"Engelbert Humperdink" really made me laugh just now.

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I really enjoyed the movie, but there were quite a few things that bothered me.

1) The female characters
Seriously, they need to bring some female writers on board for the next one, or at least some less sexist dudes, because I was not happy with the way the female characters were written AT ALL.

Uhura got ONE kickass scene in which her awesomeness in her profession is actually relevant (that was a pretty great scene though), and in literally every other scene she's reduced to Spock's girlfriend. Spock's girlfriend is worried about Spock, is fighting with Spock, is making up with Spock, is making out with Spock and is the most unprofessional ever by discussing her relationship with Spock in front of the Captain and two other dudes. She's a woman, they have feels, don'tcha know.

Carol Marcus is allegedly a weapons expert with a doctorate but the only important things she does is strip and that one scene in which she pleads with her daddy. Who does not give a fuck.

2) The plotholes

Yeah, yeah, suspending disbelief over here, but resurrection blood? How does that work? And they just deepfreeze the guy instead of using this to cure, like, everyone? Come on, don't tell me Starfleet has morals now or follows their own regulations, they were crapping all over them in this movie and the last one.

So they can contact New Vulcan from wherever they are conveniently located - why are they not informing anybody what's happening? Asking for help? Old Spock, what's up with this Khan guy? Is anything else going on, you ask? Nope, we're totally fine sitting over here in space waiting to be killed by that batshit-crazy admiral and then possibly that British terrorist after that, okay, thanks.

Still, I liked it. Kirk was much improved IMO and Chris Pine & Zachary Quinto still have great chemistry. I also loved Scotty & Uhura and would have liked to see more of Bones, Sulu and Chekov (they were pretty much sidelined).

The resurrection blood was a lot like the cold-fusion thing at the beginning.


I wanted to like this movie SO BAD. I LOVED the first on Abrams did, and I was SO excited about this...well, suffice to say I fall into the "shaking my fist at it" category.

There were a lot of places I felt this one failed. It managed to feel both bloated and hollow to me - stuffed to the gills with endless running and stakes being raised and people on the brink of death, but none of it means anything because in this movie, there are no consequences to anything. Kirk gets the Enterprise taken away because he's a terrible captain! Never mind, have it back so you can turn this movie into a revenge drama. Spock and Uhura are fighting! Except not, because Spock is just really bad at not feeling feelings. Kirk totally dies! Except not, because of deus ex tribble. Khan is a genetically engineered super being who will kill everyone! Except they totes get him back in the cryotube through reasons, which were explained by Old Spock, and I sure hope you did your homework because otherwise you have NO IDEA HOW THAT HAPPENED.

Which was the other major complaint I had - I've never been a Trek fan, but one of the reasons I loved Abrams' first film was that it was completely accessible to people with no experience with the TOS canon. You don't have to be familiar with the characters beforehand, because Abrams does such a good job of showing you why they're awesome on his own terms. And then we get Khan: Redux, and suddenly the only people who actually know how this plot got solved are people who watched Wrath of Khan the first time? It seemed so...self-serving to the existing Trekkies, with very little thought to that universal accessibility which was such a hallmark of the first one.